Deb in Amman 6
What a busy and hectic day this was. I met with Maha D., Fadi, and Ghassan to coach them on presentation skills. They are all bright, articulate, very pleasant and gracious people who sincerely want to become better presenters. We had a good session of several hours, if you don’t count the innumerable interruptions by staff with questions, and IT person to figure out why my laptop wasn’t receiving any internal email and couldn’t communicate with the printer, grantee meetings, preparations for a big symposium tomorrow, a visit by the acting Chief of Party Kareem, and multiple crises in regard to attendance and materials for the train the trainer. After 2.5 hours of this, we finally locked the conference room door!
Then I worked the rest of the day on lesson plans for Product, Price, Place and Promotion, as well as making major revisions to the first day lesson plan on Situational Analysis. I’m used to working at my home office without any interruption for long hours on end. Working in this office, where Lina had continual questions about materials and logistics and Maha D. had continual questions about attendees and class size, was like looking at a strobe light!
The biggest train the trainer crisis was that some grantees or donors (I’m not sure which, but they were high mucky mucks) insisted on attending the program and Mona said that we should increase the number of participants to 35! Lina, the office manager, thought that it was a simple matter of bringing in another table. I had to show her the math- that we could barely manage 10 videotaped sessions in one day.
So the next thought was to have a third train the trainer and for me to stay another week to facilitate that. After that somewhat stressful possibility was raised, then the word came that the office staff should not attend the training. Maha D. has not sent out any confirmations to any participants for the training that starts on Sunday because she doesn’t know how many people to allow in that session!
If the office staff cannot attend the train the trainer, then I made a poor decision with the presentation training session this morning. I only took them through content and activities that do not occur during the train the trainer, saying that they would get the rest at that program. Now I’m going to have to figure out a time to give them the rest of the content- assuming the final decision is not to allow them to attend the train the trainer.
I have to tell you about Fadi. He is a blogger and maintains the office website. He also conducts training on social media. Besides this, he is an actor and a published author- of a book dealing with Violence against women in Jordan!!! He was at a book club meeting last night and the women who took great offense at his apparent attack on their culture, their religion and their values, were very vociferous. The women who appreciated his book reportedly snuck out rather than staying to defend him. The poor guy.
I asked him why in the world he would be surprised by the angry resistance. He agreed that he should have anticipated it, but had enjoyed a warm welcome at a previous book club.
Today is Mother’s Day in Jordan and it is a VERY big deal. Maha D, who has two children, received congratulatory calls every few minutes all day long!
This evening, Cassie invited me to accompany her and Kareem to a good Italian restaurant just about a block from the hotel. Kareem never made it (he was visiting family) and Cassie and I had a devil of a time getting a table because the restaurant was booked solid for Mother’s Day. They offered us one table that was almost in the kitchen and definitely in the path of every waiter. However, we took it and the food was excellent and the service wonderful. As a matter of fact, the maître de assumed that I was Cassie’s mother- wished me a Happy Mother’s Day- and gave me a white rose! Isn’t that nice? Cassie was also very sweet, treating me to dinner
The only (major) drawback to our dining experience is that it became very smoky with cigarettes. I had to jump in the shower as soon as we got back to the hotel.
My big news is that I am planning to go to the Dead Sea on Friday. It is about an hour away from Amman and I’ve been given very clear instructions- not to stay in the water longer than 20 minutes (because the salt content is so hard on the skin), to cover myself with the black mud, etc., etc. They told me that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. I’ll have to check that out on the web.
Anyway, a taxi driver they know and like (I’d tell you his name if I actually knew it, maybe Abdul?) will drive me there, where I’ll stay for a few hours, and then drive me back to Amman.
I had originally thought about going to Petra, which is several hours away. That would entail sleeping over. I could pack up all of my stuff (which I just spent several hours ironing!!!), check out of this hotel, check into a hotel in Petra, then check back into this hotel. If I did that, Ecodit would pay.
Cassie told me that she just goes for the night, gets a room at a hotel in Petra but retains her room here at the Intercontinental. She ends up paying for the stay in Petra, but avoids all the hassle and inconvenience of checking out and back in. That was what I planned to do, going on Friday and coming back on Saturday- until Lina reminded me that I needed to set up for the training beginning on Sunday. I’ve been here just under a week and I definitely have not adjusted to the idea of Friday and Saturday being the weekend.
So, Petra will have to wait until after both weeks of training are over.
I also want to walk to Rainbow Street, which is about a 30-minute walk from the hotel. It is in the old section of the city and has lots of restaurants and shops. I keep hoping I’ll get back to the hotel with enough daylight left (and enough energy!) to go there. Today we didn’t leave the office until after 6 p.m., so we got back to the hotel after dark. I’ll have to wait for a weekend day (maybe Saturday either before or after we set up for the training- with the participant number hopefully known by then).
Tomorrow, I need to finish the lesson plan for the third day of the Social Marketing training, meet with Fadi as my subject matter expert to design training on social media, meet with the two trainers who we scheduled to handle videotaping in separate rooms (when we knew we had 30 participants) so I can brief them on how I would like them to handle the feedback sessions after each participant in the room facilitates a 10 minute participatory learning activity of their own design, discuss whatever Kareem and Mona decide regarding staff training and any extension of my contract, review the participant binder that Lina puts together, remember to pull out the extra copies of the various role play games that participants are not supposed to have in their binders, meet with Cassie to be coached on how to complete the USAID Ecodit expense report- I think that’s the morning…
Oh, another funny thing- at least funny to me. I have been wrapping scarves around my neck so that it is covered, because I believed that Muslim women did not show their chest or neck. Then I was chatting with Maha K. and realized that her neckline was similar to mine. So I’m not going to worry about scarves any more. I’m terrible at draping them with any semblance of class.
But I’m not the only one who has difficulty with covering up. For the past few days, I’ve watched as Maha D’s headscarf slowly slid back from her forehead, showing her hairline in the front. She is continually adjusting the scarf. What a pain in the neck it must be! I haven’t spent any time with any of the other women who wear traditional headscarves, so I don’t know if she is typical or not.
Regarding how chaotic the office is- it seems to be due in part to Mona, who is brilliant and creative, and changes her mind several times on the same issue- leaving the poor staff scrambling to keep up and adjust. She is apparently under great pressure from USAID for results within very tight and unreasonable timelines. They just seem to be operating in a continual crisis mode. Of course, they have many projects going on at the same time, including a $1.5 million exhibit on water and energy that they are building for the local children’s museum (I just found out about this project at dinner tonight).
Cassie is leaving very early Friday morning (her flight is at 8:30 a.m. so she has to leave the hotel by 5:00 a.m.) Sometime this weekend (I guess that means either Friday or Saturday!) another Ecodit staffer will be coming to work on the children’s museum project because the architects are bringing prototypes of the exhibits and interactive games. This is Meredith Frances, who is the very person who sent me a RFP for additional work with Ecodit. Cassie has given me instructions to plan a trip with Meredith while she’s here.
Speaking of traveling, Kareem came here from Lebanon, where he is the Chief of Party (Director) for Ecodit Lebanon. He looks like a Danish choirboy but clearly has a firm rein on the project and the staff when he is in Amman. He said that he used to make the 5 hour drive from Lebanon to Amman and that it was a very pleasant drive, with only 4 checkpoints- 1 as you leave Lebanon, 1 as you enter “no man’s land”, 1 as you leave no man’s land, and 1 as you enter Jordan.
However, because of the problems in Syria, he needs to fly (it is a 45 minute flight)- and the 4 daily flights are booked solid because other people no longer feel safe driving.
Cassie told me this evening that she was very surprised when she was in Beirut because it is very cosmopolitan and people speak French.
I’m sorry, talk about stream of consciousness and random thoughts. It must be time for bed.